March 2021

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God: everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:7-12

I have often read these verses at weddings and they are certainly appropriate words for the beginning of a marriage. But of course the Apostle John is actually writing to a Christian community, a church. These are great verses to remind us that God is the source of all love and that God’s self-giving love for us is made clear in the life, death and resurrection of God’s Son Jesus Christ. Therefore we want to live out God’s love by loving one another.

It’s unfortunate that in English we have just one word for love, which is used for everything from chocolate to cheap sex to 50 year healthy marriages. In the Greek language of the New Testament there are 3 words for love. There is Eros, from which we get the word “erotic”. Eros is important in a committed marriage, but we see way too many erotic images in the media these days.

Philia in the Greek means brotherly love. Just as in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Boy howdy, we could use a lot more brotherly/sisterly love in our divided country these days! Philia reminds us that every single person on the planet is created in the image of God and we should treat them as if we just met Jesus on the sidewalk, perhaps especially during a pandemic.

Finally there is agape, which means self-giving love or self-sacrificing love. Agape love goes way beyond asking, “What’s in it for me.” Agape always seeks to help the other person, even at considerable cost or inconvenience to oneself. The purest example of agape is, of course, Jesus dying on the cross to forgive our sins and the sins of the whole world. That was something only Jesus, God’s Son, could do. But we are all called to be as Martin Luther said, “Little Christs to our neighbors.” And I would add, especially to our neighbors in need: the hungry, homeless, ill, lonely and forgotten ones.

Agape is much more than a warm feeling. Agape is love in action. The Book of James says, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” James 2:14-16. Let me give a shout out here to Ellensburg’s FISH Food Bank (including Weekend Nutrition for Children), the Cold Weather Shelter, clothing banks and Hopesource. All of these are great avenues for loving neighbors in need.

For many Christians, the season of Lent began on Ash Wed Feb 17. Lent is a 40 day period (not including Sundays which are always “little Easters”) of walking with our Savior Jesus to his cross. Through prayer, confession, fasting, reading the Bible, giving charity and doing works of love for our neighbors in need, we seek to walk a little closer with Jesus through self-giving love: self-sacrificing love. Then we shall be able to truly celebrate Jesus’ glorious resurrection from death and the new and everlasting life he gives on Easter Sunday.

Let me close with another verse, which I often read at weddings, but again is originally written to a church: a Christian community. The Apostle Paul writes, “And now, faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Pastor Dennis